Monday, June 9, 2008

Channel 9 is the Captain's Channel

Last Tuesday I didn't play on my summer league team. There's a reason for it, a good reason I suppose. But a reason none the less.

I was in NY.
Staten Island to be more exact...

I went out on business. I expected more time to play, but work got in the way and I was much too tired after 12 hours days.

It wasn't a bad trip over all... I wish I could have stayed another 24 hours... but oh well.

The flight there... OMG, GARBAGE!!!

NEVER FLY UNITED AIRLINES... if you'd like to know why... ask me.
or just read and scroll in a downward sorta fashion.

My flight was booked about a week early via Expedia... through my work job type place. They booked it, and sent me an email. Thanks :)
So a week later I write down the confirmation number and head to the airport... proceed to get into the wrong line, then correct myself, and then my anger for United Airlines begins.

I get to the front of the line... start checking in and find out as of June 15, 2008 they'll be charging $15 for the first bag, $50 for the 2nd and (now I'm going from memory) 3rd... and $100+ for every bag there after, depending on weight.
So that surprised me, but I didn't care because it's not June 15th at this point... do I drove on.
Filled out the little "if lost contact" tag and attached it to my 1 bag going under the plane... and wait for someone to collect said bag.

The guy next to me is on the Customer Help(less) Phone... obviously frustrated, and getting more and more irate by the word.
I eavesdrop that he's been waiting for nearly 20 minutes and no one behind the counter has helped him. Apparently the person on the other end of the phone said "ok, well you're going to have to speak with someone behind the counter sir" because his response is "I WOULD. If they would speak with me. For 25 minutes, no one has helped me... That's why I'm calling you."

As his anger is rising, my funny bone is tickling... and I'm enjoying this unfold.
There's 3 people on the other side of his little counter space, and he's able to get 1 of their attentions... He explains that the representative on the phone would like to speak with a united rep behind the counter.

Little FYI... This guy is respectable looking. Neatly dressed and speaks very clear educated English. Not pompous or any sort of "I'm better than you" kind of attitude at all.
He asked the man behind the counter calmly. And respectfully. The response he got influenced his next words into the phone "The guy behind the counter just got off the clock. 1 other person said he doesn't speak with anyone on the phone. and the 3rd person says she doesn't want to speak with you."

Good job United.

About 3 or 4 minutes later a guy asks for my bag, I hand, he says Thanks, and throws it on the conveyer asking someone at the end of the line to handle it.
Wait a second.... did you even look at the name? Where's the destination tag that attaches to every bag going under the plane?

I spoke up, and it was added to my simple backpack.

After getting my self taken care of I mentioned the guy next to me was having issues getting service... my representative spoke to him, and turned him to the end a line about 8 people deep... which formed in the past 10 minutes while I waited.

Thumbs up United.

Fast forward through security because that's never an issue and I get to Terminal B... head down to my gate.
After leaving the main walk way area and getting to the very end of the terminal I find my number, B19.
Apparently this is the first gate before you get to the sun.
Within 2 steps onto the carpeted area I find my shirt slowly drenching in sweat... I see the people in the seats wiping sweat from their brows with shoe strings because they're out of napkins... I'm watching babies go to sleep because it's too hot to cry.
Even they know it's too hot to try and complain, Satan doesn't give 2 shits.

I have another hour before my flight starts to board... excellent. I walk around for about 5 minutes and find the coolest area near my gate and plop a seat.

an hour or near strolls by and I notice a line has formed. That's expected.

If you've never flown before... here's something you should know before this experience continues.
When you check in and you get your boarding pass, it'll show your gate, flight number, type of plane your about to fly on, your seat number, and what section you'll be boarding in.
Seat usually being 1-30 or whatever... depending on length of plane. The lower number the more forward in the plane you are.
Section usually being 1, 2, 3, 4 or a, b, c, etc... and they board accordingly.

My Ticket: Section was "n/a"....Seat was "to be determined at gate"
Strange, but ok... perhaps because it was booked with work it's a standby sorta thing.

I go to the counter... wait in line... explain to the customer service my confusion, and I'm told I'll board after group/section 4, but before Standby.
Alrighty... sounds good to me. I'm in Group 5 with no name.
Right on.

So I sit back down and wait some more. I watch groups 1, 2, 3, and 4 group into semi-lines... I decided it'd be a good time to hop in line.

Ticket guy takes my ticket and says "oh, you're not yet... you'll have to wait." and takes the ticket behind me.
Oh, sorry... I walk to the end of the line (maybe 10 people back) and start over.
Getting to the front of the line again he reads my ticket "Rabbit... You're waiting for a seat assignment... You'll have to wait. Just have a seat over there."

Talked to me like a child in a restroom. Creepy.

This is odd though... because it's a group of me and about 15 others standing, sitting, dying... the screens are flickering with over 30 standby passengers for this flight.
I go over to the desk and take land behind the 1 person in line. He's taken a spot behind the person currently being helped at the counter.

2... 3... 4 minutes pass... 5 minutes... the person is helped. Successful! and he runs off to board the plane.
So does the service rep behind the counter.


Ticket dude is gone. Service rep is gone... now 20 names on the standby list. What the hell just happened?

I find the nearest united customer service telephone and call the same line the gent at the baggage check in called.
Get the same response "You'll need to speak with a rep behind the counter, they'll sort everything out for you sir."
This is my response after explaining that there is no one behind the counter.

"Give me a minute... I'll let you talk to Casper" and I walk away from the phone.

Checking every gate for a rep I end up walking up to gate B1.
I find 1 rep.
Behind 1 completely empty counter.

I walk up to the counter and say "Excuse me" in the American polite sort of manner... response "Gimme a minute"
She was obviously concentrating, so I wait.

about 15 minutes of my random "is now a good time?" interruptions I've long decided not to leave my post because she'd run off to magic plane land and I'll never get on my flight.
Sorry lady, you walk away from this podium, I'm on your tail. You've earned a shadow :-)

Eventually she finishes her work and starts to walk away... After 15 minutes of not really having anything to look at I've memorized her name and every piece of information on her name tag. "Nikki, I need to get on a plane. You said give me a minute... I've given you 15, can we resolve this please?"

"Sorry hun, I'm off the clock." as she turned to walk away. I read off her ID number and ask for her manager, followed by her full name.

What's with people clocking out in this place? Damn.

Spinning back to the desk... she is unable to explain what happened... does confirm that I should have had a seat right behind first class but not in economy/coach (good seats.. my favorite without spending $1000) and she was able to get me onto a flight 2 hours later. All of this after saying "that flight is still boarding... it was delayed"
"Yeah, delayed for 10 minutes. That mark was 45 minutes ago."

Thanks for the update United.

The next flight leaves in 2.5 hours, it's the last flight of the night. I make my way to chili's and buy a beer, and wait.
My new boarding pass says I'm boarding with section/group 2... this excites me a little because I like the front of the plane better.
For you safety nuts, I know that behind the wings is better as far as safe goes... but I look at it like this. If I'm gonna go, it doesn't matter if I'm in the ass of the plane or the head of a train. My number's up, it's up. I'm not afraid of death... especially since it's simply a part of life anyway.
The front of the plane is better for a couple of reasons... It's quieter. Often has a better view out of the window (less wing/engine to bother with.) Bathrooms are closer. The TV's (if equipped) often are of better quality than the rear. The crying babies/noisy children are 90% behind me (as in the back of the plane)

where was I... Oh right, section 2... I board, no issues, get to my seat... I'm in an exit isle.... awesome sweetness!
This means I get an extra 62 feet of leg room. Plus, I'm fully capable of opening a door if we go down as a flaming tin can of death. Totally capable.

I tuck my carry on under the seat in front of me, insert my head phones into the jack in the arm rest, fluff my built in airline chair pillow and snuggle in to my new home for the next couple of hours.
In the arm rest I adjust the volume to a comfortable level... and scroll through <a href=",6722,51600,00.html">the 13 channels.</a> 2-6 actually have active noise... all others are dead air. Only 1 channel has anything remotely acceptable for my listening pleasure. This I can deal with, but I'm not happy about...
I'm one of those weirdo people that like to listen in on the communications of the captain to the tower on the ground. Not sure why, but I've always enjoyed this.
Not having this station to listen to during my flight was unsettling, but whatever.

After we reach 35,000 cruising feet of air space I get my complimentary drink. I also get ice in my drink... as a standard.
Surprise to me, United Airlines is cutting back on complementary crap... probably due to the gas prices ...cutting back on things such as ICE.

I got 1 ice cube. Who uses 1 ice cube?
I don't... I use a bunch... or none, depending. But don't tease me with 1.
Why'd you let me know "Yeah, we have ice... but you can't have any"

I must commend the pilots though. I snoozed a bit on my flight, and when we landed I literally didn't even know we had already touched down. Not because I was in a deep slumber... because flight sleep is never deep ...but because the touch down was actually that smooth.
It was  a brilliant thing.

Well done United.

So I go to the baggage claim to get my labeled backpack and realize it should have been on the flight that landed 3 hours prior.
So I head to the baggage claim office and inquire about it. I'm informed that it should be in the baggage area, usually in the center on the floor.

Security officials allow this? Hey, you're the boss.
I wander back over to bags are being picked up and look around for piles of luggage. Finding 2 I look through each pile and come up empty.
I search around a little more.
and some more

about 5 minutes later I discover my bag is hidden behind about a dozen passengers waiting for their bags on the conveyor. My bag happens to be a lonely bag in the middle of the floor.
just 1 backpack in the middle of the floor...
no signs saying "lost and found"
no official police type person standing there protecting the bag
nothing indicating "this bag doesn't have a bomb"

So I risk my life and save the possible bomb filled backpack and find a taxi. Getting to my hotel at 1am isn't the greatest thing, but after check it it's also not my top priority to write an angry letter to united.
I slept instead.

I'll be in touch, United.
(no bombs, just a phone call or email or letter. Something my grandma would do... but whatever. Maybe I'll get a T-Shirt or a pencil or something nifty)

Stay tuned next week... The Return Flight!!!!
or don't, I don't really care.